Oct 26, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The Guardian recently proclaimed blockchain to be “this year’s buzzword”. While you have undoubtedly heard of it, you may not know what it is and what it means for you as a student. Here’s a closer look at all things blockchain -- along with why online studies offer an ideal opportunity to learn more about this exciting up-and-coming technology.

What Is Blockchain?

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value,” explain Don and Alex Tapscott in 2016’s Blockchain Revolution.

In allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, this ingenious invention is the basis for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Its benefits are manifold. Blockgeeks says, “Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared -- and continually reconciled -- database. [...] The blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. No centralized version of this information exists for a hacker to corrupt. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to anyone on the internet.”

Blockchain has been proposed as a solution for many things, including everything from solving the post-Brexit Irish border issue to addressing Africa’s many broken systems.

YourStory, meanwhile, argues, “At [blockchain’s] heart is a rebellious disdain for central authoritative control, offering instead a decentralized network of self-compliance and regulation. But the servant has become the master, offering business benefits not envisaged during its conception. In fact, it’s nothing short of a game changer for those who can master it.”

Why You Should Learn About Blockchain

While experts are still debating where blockchain will make its biggest impact, they agree it is here to stay -- first and foremost in the worlds of business and finance. The Conversation, in asserting that all future accountants will need to speak blockchain, says, “It can certainly be anticipated that this evolutionary technology is set to spark a huge revolution in the business world. It’s already being trialled at governmental level, from the Sweden Land Registry, to the Big Four accountancy firm such as E&Y – who accept Bitcoin as payment for its consultancy services.”

But blockchain’s possibilities do not end there. “Blockchain has the potential to replace mediators who are present today in multiple industries to provide transparency and accountability, such as banks for financial transactions, universities for verifying academic certificates or music companies to reward music creators,” cryptography expert Dr. David Galindo told The Guardian.

Despite everything it offers, very few people understand blockchain. And yet it’s expected to become increasingly prevalent moving forward.

One caveat about blockchain's promise: the technology isn’t a cure-all in and of itself. Alan Tsen, the general manager of Melbourne-based fintech hub Stone & Chalk, told Mashable, "Most [people] talk about blockchain like it’s a magical technology that can transform any business model it touches. Although it’s a hugely exciting technology, it needs to be understood for what it is — a database structure that has some really useful characteristics that are well-suited to a number of industry problems."

Your takeaway as a future member of the workforce? Given its huge potential, people with blockchain knowledge and skills will be very much in demand. It is already one of the biggest tech recruitment areas. And learning about it ahead of the curve will position you to become a critical player on any team.

Also, Mashable says, “More generally, the skill of brainstorming how an emerging technology of this scale will impact your company is hugely beneficial to your critical-thinking skill set -- and can be applied to other disruptive concepts such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality/augmented reality.”

The Online Imperative

While there are many ways to learn about blockchain, online studies are especially opportune. For starters, the nature of the topic itself makes it a perfect fit for technologically-inclined remote learners. And then there’s the fact that there’s already a huge inventory of beginner blockchain courses online -- many with remarkably affordable price tags.

And then there are all of the usual upsides of studying online: unique accessibility, flexibility, and convenience.

Blockchain is the future. Will you play a role in leading the way forward? Take a giant step toward a brighter tomorrow by learning more about online blockchain courses and certification programs and master's degrees in fintech.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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